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blog – Culture Shock: Taking Outdoor Cat to Far-Off Apartment

Loss of Territory; Stress with New Indoor Cats

Question:

I was at my mother’s for her birthday and there was this beautiful cat on her porch. I petted and loved on her and then I learned that she was a stray in the trailer park. Mom suggested I take her home seeing that I am a big cat lover and already have 3 calicos. She is eating and drinking in my apartment but stays close to my door. She will come to me when I call her (Cleo) but she seems to be grieving. She ignores my cats unless they come around a corner but then it’s just a small hiss. Did I make a mistake in rescuing her? She lets me hold her and pet her and she purrs every time I touch her.

 

Dr. Nichol:

You are certainly kind to try to help Cleo. The problem is that cats who have lived in one place for a long time become highly bonded to their territory. Your indoor cats are the same way about their home and can’t stand that cute newcomer. Taking Cleo out of her element and adding her to your established feline colony has been stressful for everybody.

There are ways of trying to help this crowd accept your decision but the upheaval may worsen. Long term your kitties will be at increased risk of bladder disease, upper respiratory infections, fighting, and house soiling. Crowding is bad for cats. They like sardines but they’re nothing like sardines.

Despite the outdoor hazards Cleo will do best living back where she started. She’ll have unlimited choices about where and with whom she wants spend time. Your apartment cats have adapted to their indoor lives. None of these kitties wants change. They hate that feline 4 letter word.

My advice is to take Cleo back to her real home. You can improve her life by adding a raised, snug little kitty house so she can stay warm and safe. You’ll look forward to bringing her special food and enjoying her company when you visit your mom. Sometimes it’s painful doing what’s best for others. But you’re a person. You can adjust more easily than any stick-in-the-mud cat.

 

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.